Local history

Will’s world: Shakespeare as the man in the crowd

Shakespeare’s first biographer was the gossipy antiquarian John Aubrey, who famously described the playwright as ‘not a company keeper’. It has long been tempting to see him this way: Shakespeare the aloof genius, almost divine. There’s something chilly in this vision, and scholarly work on Shakespeare of the past few decades has increasingly tended to picture him in different kinds of company. Academic studies now routinely investigate Shakespeare as a member of a group of players, or trace his links to patrons, his family and his rivals. By now it is generally accepted that Shakespeare’s plays were collaborative; the scholarly squabbles are over how much and which bits of work